The glories of Cinemascope were never better on display than in Jean Negulesco’s Boy on a Dolphin, a dramatic adventure featuring one of the world’s most picturesque stars, Sophia Loren, and with location filming off the Greek Isles and in Athens that is simply spectacular.
The Production: 3.5/5
The glories of Cinemascope were never better on display than in Jean Negulesco’s Boy on a Dolphin, a dramatic adventure featuring one of the world’s most picturesque stars, Sophia Loren, and with location filming off the Greek Isles and in Athens that is simply spectacular. This new 4K restoration presents the film magnificently with lush color and wonderful clarity, possibly better than it looked even in its premiere engagements.
During one of her dives for sponges off the coast of Hydra to help put bread on the table, Phaedra (Sophia Loren) discovers a long lost vessel containing a two thousand-year old statue in gold and bronze of a young boy riding on the back of a dolphin. Local expatriate Dr. Hawkins (Laurence Naismith) knows the discovery is worth a lot of money if revealed to the right people, and he sends Phaedra to Athens to peddle her discovery to the richest bidder. She meets Dr. James Calder (Alan Ladd), an American archaeologist who has made it his mission to return ancient artifacts to their legal owners, and is quite taken with him, but she’s offered real money from wealthy treasure barterer Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb) and makes a deal with him knowing her dire need of money if her younger brother Niko (Piero Giagnoni) is to have a chance in life or if she is to be able to marry her rather shiftless boy friend Rhif (Jorge Mistral). Parmalee wants Phaedra to stall Calder while he and his associates retrieve the statue, but it’s going to be hard for her since she’s falling in love with the handsome American and feels guilty about misleading him.
The Ivan Moffat-Dwight Taylor screenplay (adapted from the book by David Divine) rather soft pedals both the chase and the romantic aspects of the tale, offering a leisurely saga of treasure hunting that allows director Jean Negulesco to get the most out of his location shooting around the Greek Isles, the Parthenon in Athens, and several underwater excursions that feature all kinds of colorful fish and sea flora (interiors and some tank work with the stars was filmed in the Cinecitta Studios in Rome). The pacing might have been ramped up a little to put some stronger tension into the tale, and Negulesco working once again in Cinemascope doesn’t show quite as much dexterity here with placement of people and objects within the frame as he did in his earlier Cinemascope excursions like How to Marry a Millionaire and Daddy Long-Legs. But it all plays agreeably enough even if the climax is a trifle extended and the surprises somewhat anticlimactic.
Though third billed, Sophia Loren gets the lion’s share of the attention here. Becoming more and more of an international star by the day, the star is displayed in all manner of clothes and swimwear that show off her gorgeous figure, and the script works in a song and two folk dances for her to perform along with the standard acting scenes with big stars like Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb. As usual, Alan Ladd is likable and low-key, rarely showing a fiery temperament or strong emotion even in the few, very chaste love scenes. Clifton Webb plays one of his schemers here, suave and refined while knowingly breaking the law and yet looking on while others do the dirty work while he basks in his wealth and privilege without breaking a sweat. Laurence Naismith’s role is important in the early reels, but he rather fades in importance through much of the rest of the film drinking himself into stupors until rallying to provide the movie’s surprise ending. Jorge Mistral is assertive as the rough-and-tumble Rhif showing his true, greedy colors by film’s end, and Piero Giagnoni is an appealing younger brother without any obvious attempts to be precocious or endearing.
3D Rating: NA
Though the early scenes which offer a mini-travelogue of the Greek Isles in the Aegean and the main titles don’t give one great hope for a stunning transfer, things look up the moment those brief sequences end with absolutely awesome clarity and resounding color values that emphasize blue skies (and blue seas in a few shots) and marvelously appealing skin tones. Contrast has been consistently applied in this 1080p 2.35:1 Cinemascope transfer using the AVC codec, and the images are, after the titles, artifact free. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix is solid if a trifle underwhelming on occasion. Certainly, Hugo Friedhofer’s Oscar-nominated background score sounds lovely spread across the front soundstage, and the dialogue is always easy to understand. Atmospheric effects are somewhat subdued in the mix
Special Features: 1.5/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:25, SD)
Sophia Loren Promo Trailers (SD, HD): Five Miles to Midnight, Marriage Italian Style, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Sunflower, Boccaccio 70.
How wonderful that another 1950s Cinemascope classic, in this case Boy on a Dolphin, has come to Blu-ray in a magnificent transfer reflecting a new 4K restoration that brings out all the beauties of its locations and its cast.